A Japanese Whisper
A book about a unique existential fuel that drives every individual and gives fullness to life? Yes, please. We would like some ikigai, right about now.
The global pandemic has forced many of us to hit the ‘reset’ button of our daily routines, shear off excesses and settle into a new rhythm of life. In these times, Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life by Héctor García and Francesc Miralles is perhaps the perfect book to read.
At the core of the book is the authors’ visit to Okinawa, an island in the south of Japan famous for its high population of centenarians. They spend time in the island’s northern rural town of Ogimi, popularly known as the ‘Village of Longevity’, where they investigate the lives of the inhabitants in search of their secrets to a long life. Combining their observations with personal anecdotes, excerpts from interviews, practical tips and even poetry, they present these secrets to us in a simple, engaging and dynamic format.
Cultivating a vegetable garden, fostering a strong sense of community, following a mindful diet, and keeping busy with things they enjoy are a few of them, all of which are linked to a conscious nurturing of ikigai – the unique existential fuel that drives every individual and gives fullness to life.
The book also explores ideas from different parts of the world to help readers discover their own personal ikigai. From Viktor Frankl’s concept of logotherapy and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s concept of ‘flow’, to an overview of yoga, tai chi and qigong, readers are introduced to a buffet of ikigai-conducive theories and practices they can apply to their own lives. Concepts like wabi-sabi, which focuses on the beauty of transience and imperfection, and ‘antifragility’, which goes a step beyond resilience to getting better with adversity, are particularly appealing during our present times.
While the presentation of ideas sometimes feels simplistic, and in a few instances, slightly contrived to highlight the idea of ikigai, the book makes for a light, informative and enjoyable read overall. With its artistic sky-blue cover, visually pleasing off-white paper, minimalist typography and handy size, reading this book might well be the first step towards aligning yourself to your ikigai.